Bike lanes pause, but people power accelerates

In a packed room at Melbourne Town Hall, the City of Melbourne approved a decision to defer the roll out of bike lanes for a year. But not without an unprecedented fight by the public.

The majority of the near-five hour Future Melbourne Committee meeting focused around the controversial Agenda 6.9 item – which would put a halt on bike lane builds in the city.

The motion by Council was to 'defer' the rollout of bike lanes in the CBD for 12 months, but to urgently deliver bike lanes around the city in places like Arden St, Macauley Rd, and Royal Pde. The design for a Flinders Street bike lane will also be developed.

City of Melbourne heard from 49 speakers on the night. Not one speaker addressed the council in favour of pausing the pop-up bike lane rollout. One speaker even made the quip “are we going to hear from any people *against* the bike lanes tonight?”

The Council heard from doctors, scientists, climate groups, transport groups, urban planners, theatre operators, residents and the wider community. A number of Bicycle network members, team and board also spoke on the night.

Speakers brought evidence-based arguments, personal experiences, and future prospects. Some gave personal experiences of crashes that left them with physical, mental and financial burdens.

It is unfortunate that the Herald Sun glossed over the overwhelming response from the community in support of bike lanes. There were 1028 written submissions in favour of continuing the bike rollout and just 10 against, a mere 1 per cent of the written submissions.

What do we think?

It’s a disappointing setback that we are deferring rider’s safety in the CBD for another year. But we are focusing on the positives.

A pause is better than ripping up. The one year pause means people will have time to get used to the existing lanes so there may be less angst over the next lot going in.

Another silver lining is that the extra time can be used to strengthen designs. With the surprising boom of e-scooters in the city recently, and with steady growth in bike activity forecasted in the future, the council should use the time to ensure design, planning and consultation is done thoroughly and to a high standard. This includes more effectively engaging advocates, traders, and the community.

But there is one thing in our minds that shone brighter than anything else on the night: the people power. When the microphones were on and the cameras were rolling, the people riding bikes were there. The show of support for bike lanes may have helped to avoid moves to rip up existing lanes.

Comments by most councillors acknowledge the urgency of bike lanes in our transport system, but we do need to hold them accountable and ensure the infrastructure is delivered. This is nothing that empowered community can’t face.

Bicycle Network would like to thank every person who stood up and made their voices heard. Together, we can build a fair transport system.

Photo credit: Boroondara BUG Twitter.

This article was made possible by the support of Bicycle Network's members who enable us to make bike riding better in Australia.